Ratatouille with Sausage over Polenta

rata2I love ratatouille. I have always considered it to be a peasant type food, that was best made sans formal recipes. Get your hands dirty! Figuratively speaking that is.

You get the best ingredients and you love them until they reduce to this delightful silken wonder of melded tastes.

See? I wax poetic when it comes to ratatouille.

Anyway, so dearly do I love the stuff that it seemed only fair to marry it to another favorite, Parmesan Polenta and some great sausages. This makes such a great meal.

I hope you enjoy it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 recipe of Parmesan Polenta, made the day before. If you want your polenta pourable, then you can make it at the same time.
  • 1 medium to large eggplant, diced (depending on age, peel, salt, and rinse to remove bitterness. I try to obtain small young eggplants and not have to peel or salt)
  • 1 lg onion, sliced semi-thinly or in a larger dice
  • 2-3 medium zucchini, or any variety or combination of summer squash, diced
  • 1 lg sweet pepper, diced. Italian frying peppers are superb here if you can get them.
  • 4 lg cloves garlic, microplaned
  • 3 c seeded tomatoes, diced (you can peel them if you wish, but this is rustic)
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, diced
  • olive oil
  • 1/3 c chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 sausages (any type you like)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (at the table)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large saute pan, heat up some olive oil, about 1/4 c. When shimmering, add the eggplant, onion, zucchini, and sweet pepper. Fry, letting them get some nice char on the edges before stirring. Allow to get softened. Medium heat.
  2. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue sauteing until the mushrooms have softened.
  3. Salt and pepper generously, at least a teaspoon of each.
  4. Add the tomatoes and stir, reducing the heat, and covering the pan. Cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid and continue cooking the mixture down until the tomatoes have broken down nicely and the mixture starts to get a saucy consistency but while the vegetables still retain their integrity. This can take a long time if done slowly which is what you want. Plan a good hour for this step.
  6. Meanwhile, place the sausages in another pan and saute just enough to get some nice char. You can leave them whole or slice as you wish. Don’t put them in the ratatouille however, since the intense flavors of the sausage will get leached out and they will be too bland. Add them to the dish and then stir in just before serving.
  7. Add parsley also at the end just before serving.
  8. Add additional olive oil to get a nice sheen on the dish at serving time as well.
  9. Slice the polenta into squares, saute in olive oil until warmed and just toasted on the outside. Turn and do the other side, browning slightly. (You can do this on the grill if you like as well. Brush with olive oil before placing on the grill)
  10. Plate with a slice of polenta and a couple of ladles of the ratatouille.
  11. Dust with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

SERVES: 4

SOURCE: Sherry Peyton

NOTES: Because it takes a bit of time to cook down the ratatouille properly, this is a perfect recipe to start in the morning. Take your time and reduce the sauce until its glistening, and thick and the tomatoes are nicely broken down. You can just turn it off,  cover and leave it on the stove for later at this point, or refrigerate if you desire. Since it will water up a bit when cooled, when you reheat, plan on reducing it a bit further, about 30 minutes on low heat, just letting it bubble and steam away the accumulated liquid. You don’t want it dry, but just not watery.

Chokes and Eggplant Parmigiano

Eggplant Parmesan is always an elegant meal, but I decided to amp it up just a bit by adding another of my favorite veggies, artichokes. Since I don’t live in an area where artichokes are sold at the “young” stage, rather than cook and dice several to make this dish, I used canned. Feel most free to use the real thing of course.

I also used my own marinara sauce, but you can substitute with a favorite store-bought variety should you have one.

In any case, with a salad and some hot garlic bread, you have a real great meal. And don’t forget to add a nice glass of Chianti to round it out.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Several small eggplants of the Japanese variety or one large regular eggplant.
  • About 3 cups of marinara sauce
  • 8 oz or so of fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • 1 c grated good quality Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 15 oz can of artichoke hearts, diced

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Slice the eggplant in 1/4 inch slices long ways for the Japanese variety. For the regular, it’s usually best to salt the slices, pile in a colander and weigh it down. After about 30 minutes, rinse and pat dry.
  2. Liberally brush olive oil on the slices and place on a cookie sheet that is brushed with oil as well or use parchment paper which also has been oiled a bit. Bake at 425° until browned and done. Usually no more than about 20 minutes.
  3. Place 2/3 of a cup of the marinara into the bottom of your baking dish, layer some eggplant, scatter some pieces of the artichokes, and scatter about a third of the mozzarella. Do a second layer, and then a third.
  4. Top all with the Parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake in a 375° oven until heated through and browned lightly on top.

Serves: 6-8

NOTE: You can add a layer of ricotta cheese into which you have stirred 1 egg until blended and 1/2 c of Parmesan cheese. Also you could add about 2/3 of a pound of Italian sausage either diced, sliced, or crumbled in each layer as well. Or add some zucchini or other summer squash.